Apr 19, 2021, Irish Times: (Northern Ireland) ‘Desperate' parents opting to pay up to £1,400 [$2,000] for private autism assessments https://www.irishnews.com/news/healthcarenews/2021/04/19/news/-desperate-parents-opting-to-pay-up-to-1-400-for-private-autism-assessments-2293075/
RECORD high numbers of children with suspected autism are on waiting lists after the pandemic led to NHS clinics shutting last year – with almost 5,000 waiting to be seen. Figures obtained by The Irish News reveal the scale of the backlog is double that of three years ago, with young patients in the Northern, Belfast and Western trusts worst affected. Delays of more than two years are being experienced in Belfast, with many “desperate” parents opting to pay up to £1,400 for private autism assessments. the use of two-way mirrors and assessments in family gardens/outdoor spaces – there was a dramatic drop in diagnoses, with just 134 between March and June last year compared with 681 for the same period in 2019. The Belfast trust confirmed it has “accepted private assessments for a number of years” – and received 77 referrals for “intervention from private providers” between April 2019 and the end of last month. One mother told The Irish News that her six-year-old daughter was seen privately “within weeks” by a team of specialists and was given a diagnosis last year….. “Early intervention is crucial to determining life outcomes, not just their childhood.” The north’s four other trusts were unable to disclose how many private referrals they had accepted…. Dr Michael McKenna, a GP based in west Belfast for 20 years, expressed his concern about widening inequality gaps for poorer children and their families due to the waiting list crisis. “We’re seeing longer waiting lists which forces people who otherwise would normally get their treatment on the NHS into to the private sector because they have no other choice – or feel like they have no other choice because they become desperate,” he said…. The Northern trust has the biggest backlog, with 1,883 children on waiting lists – which trust officials partly attributed to it having the highest school age population. The longest delay is 490 days. In Belfast, there are 1,714 children waiting for autism assessments, with the longest wait at 846 days. The Western trust confirmed it has 1099 children waiting on appointments, with the longest wait at 720 days. … “But parents of children with autism often talk about how they have to fight for everything. It’s often the person who shouts the loudest gets the most reward, which isn’t fair…. With all five of the north’s health trusts now accepting private referrals, there are growing concerns about a two-tier health system pushing disadvantaged children further down the waiting list….